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An almost perfect planet buster - 97%

TrooperEd, March 4th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Sanctuary Records (Remastered, Reissue)

Generally speaking whenever someone talks about the Ozzy years, they say "after the first four or five albums they fell off" and I want to take a crowbar to their miserable empty heads. Or at the very least I want to grab hold of their collars and yell at them "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH SABOTAGE YOU MISERABLE CUNT?!" Even Rolling Stone magazine gave this thing a good review. I'd like to repeat that because it's fairly important: Rolling Stone, the baby-boomer cum rag that gave a bad review to anything with a heavy guitar sound, gave this album, a good review. Now you'd think some backwards logic would be employed such as "If Rolling Stone gives it good review it must be shite," we're talking about Sabotage here. Not only the Ozzy era's finest hour, but Sabbath's finest hour in their 45+ year career.

At the very least it's Ozzy finest moment vocally. He's hitting notes here that neither Dio nor Robert fucking Plant were able to hit (at least in 1975 he wasn't hitting those notes anymore. Fun fact: In a review for Zeppelin's 1975 double LP, perennial fart-knocker Robert Christgau says Plant was starting to get on his nerves, 'and [he liked] him.' For all the lionizing of Dio being Sabbath's greatest vocalist, I don't ever recalling him tearing Symptom of the Universe or The Writ up live on the Heaven & Hell tour. He wasn't exactly itching to do Sweet Leaf either, but I digress. To be fair, Megalomania was a struggle for Ozzy live as well. Just listen to Past Lives where he has to bailout and switch to a much lower octave about 3/4 of the way through. But still for one glorious year, Ozzy was the best metal vocalist on the planet. Drugs are hell of a drug kids.

The only member who's not quite at the top of his game is Bill Ward, not that you'd immediately notice from the drum-fill destruction that is Symptom of the Universe. But the Gene Krupa-isms that flourished throughout the first four albums have kind of eroded. Most of the time he plays relatively straight. But still, he's much more sound and reactionary here than he is on say, Heaven & Hell, where the alcohol and Ozzy's departure took even more of a toll than usual.

But the people who have really stepped up their game were songwriters Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler. While Ronnie definitely has a history of unintentionally exerting his ideas into a band, I don't think Heaven & Hell could have taken shape the way it did if progressive, epic, and heavy as fuck masterpieces like The Writ and Megalomania hadn't sown those seeds five years ago. The acoustic/mellotronic breaks around 5:05 of the former are particularly mindbending. Ozzy's vocal plays a perfect Lebowski rug and gives the moments a brilliant feeling of depression and exhaustion. Megalomania also has a twinge of that R&B home-wrecked and pissed off Arethra Franklin sensibility in its second half. One of two examples of a slight Mowtown influence in metal.

But Sabbath has been, and always will be, about the fucking riffs. Symptom of the Universe is credited as the first thrash song and with, very, very good reason. This was the first Black Sabbath song I ever heard as a live track, and as you might imagine, it tore my head off with its intensity. I'd almost venture to say practically every other Sabbath song after that was a letdown because very, very few songs in that break-in period impressed me as much as that one did. It was probably a smart decision to leave the "Woman child of love's creation" part out live though, as the band never seemed to be going anywhere with it. Even Supertzar, an instrumental track best described as a glorified PA intro, has not one but TWO killer riffs many rock bands they wish they could have as their hit single.

No Sabbath album seems to be without excess, however. I've never quite understood the point of Don't Start (Too Late). I'll admit Orchis and Laguna Sunrise can be fun moody pieces every once in a while, but this literally feels like tripping over a rock after the mid-paced majesty of Hole In The Sky. Especially after it seems like the track accidentally had a second or so cut off. It's way too short and has no musical direction to be of any value. There's also some days where Am I Going Insane works, and some days where I just have to skip to The Writ. It can be just a tad too goofy sometimes.

The absurdly high ranking is a combination of the band at their peak and the undeniable historical importance of Black Sabbath. Sabbath got fucked something fierce by management and with Sabotage comes time for some Arctically served revenge. The first SIX albums are cornerstones of heavy fucking metal, and don't you let anyone forget it.